By Steve Beauregard
With approximately 18 million residents in the Greater Los Angeles area, it’s easy to see why a good portion of revelers in Las Vegas are Angelenos looking for an exciting casino and entertainment escape.
The world may come to play in Las Vegas, but according to numbers from the Las Vegas Visitors and Convention Bureau, roughly one out of every four tourists in Las Vegas at any one time are from Los Angeles.
That’s because there are so many folks in the greater Los Angeles area (the aforementioned 18 million roughly), and because it’s fairly close and convenient. How close?
Interstate 15 is the Main Road to Las Vegas from Los Angeles
That all depends on what part of the massive LA area you’re starting out from, but from city hall in downtown Los Angeles, it’s exactly 263 miles (or 424 kilometers), to the Las Vegas Strip, (specifically, Mandalay Bay). In normal traffic, it would take you approximately four hours to drive it by car.
Other than the exciting rush to get into sin city and start gambling, the ride itself is pretty boring, and filled with desolate stretches of nothingness, other than the wealthy 20-somethings zipping past you in a Lexus doing 103 miles per hour.
The vast majority of the drive takes place on Interstate 15, going north and east to Las Vegas.
Once you get out east, past the endless stream of subdivisions and strip malls, and past Victorville, the first decent sized town you’ll get to is Barstow, which is 115 miles from downtown LA, or roughly 1 hour and 45 minutes away. I personally dare you to drive through Barstow, without singing Sheryl Crow’s hit, “Leaving Las Vegas,” in which she sings, “Used to be I could drive up to Barstow for the night, find some crossroad trucker to demonstrate his might.”
I don’t know why you’d want some creepy old trucker to “demonstrate his might” on you, but if you’re into that sort of thing, I guess Barstow is for you. The point is that singing the song is legally required when driving through Barstow, despite my wife’s protests.
After Barstow, it’s a long stretch of desert. Mojave National Preserve will be on your right during the drive, while Death Valley will be a little north on your left hand side. You may want to bring a bottle of water.
It’s 228 miles, or 3 and 1/2 hours from Los Angeles to the casinos in Primm, Nevada, which is your first chance to gamble (legally). Primm has three casinos, a killer roller coaster, and an outlet mall.
(A map from downtown Los Angeles to Las Vegas)
Those of you really aching to get your gamble on can stop in Primm of course, however if you’ll just keep focused a little bit longer, you’ll find yourself in Vegas in just over 1/2 hour, as the start of the Las Vegas Strip is just 36 miles from Primm.
Keep in mind that on this stretch of I-15, there is a significant police presence. While stuck in traffic once, I saw what seemed like countless police cars, or sheriff’s cars, pull over the impatient drivers who were trying to by-pass the traffic by driving on the pull-over lane.
So as I’ve mentioned, the drive is very simple and straightforward, as you’ll be zipping along I-15 the entire time. It’s never really empty, however, as they’ll always be a decent stream of travelers heading out to Vegas to try their luck.
Yet while it’s never empty, you’ll want to avoid driving from Los Angeles to Las Vegas on Friday afternoons, if at all possible. As you might imagine, Angelenos leaving work for the week often crowd up I-15, making the 4 hour drive turn into an 8 hour journey. This is especially true on holiday weekends.
It’s perhaps even worse going back to Los Angeles from Las Vegas on Sunday afternoons. Even more so on the Sunday following a holiday. My wife knows a stupid tourist who tried to drive I-15 to L.A. on a holiday. Actually, she happens to be married to him.
On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, my family and I left the Town Square Mall just south of Mandalay Bay at 2:30 p.m. We got to Primm, Nevada (36 miles away remember) right before 7 p.m., over four hours later.
We threw in the towel and got a room in Primm. I don’t want to think about how long it would take to get to Los Angeles, although a man I spoke with the following day said it took his sister 12 hours to get from Las Vegas to Los Angeles.
The point is that if at all possible, avoid the drive to Las Vegas on Friday afternoons, and avoid driving to L.A. on Sunday afternoons. Either that, or bring some foreign language tapes with you in the car. You’ll be fluent in no time.
Driving Time and Distances from other Los Angeles Cities
Here are some other distances and driving times from Southern California locations to Las Vegas. (All times are approximate and without traffic. They are the posted estimates from Google maps, but can certainly vary depending on the traffic.) These estimates seem to represent the most ideal, fastest drive possible.
Anaheim (Disneyland resort): 261 miles, or about 3 hours and 43 minutes.
Burbank: 266 miles – 3 hours and 50 minutes.
Downey: 263 miles – 3 hours, 48 minutes.
Glendale: 262 miles – 3 hours and 49 minutes.
Hollywood: 269 miles – 3 hours and 59 minutes.
Inglewood: 278 miles – 4 hours and 6 minutes.
Irvine: 261 miles – 3 hours and 48 minutes.
Long Beach, California: 276 miles – 4 hours and 2 minutes.
Norwalk: 262 miles – 3 hours, 47 minutes.
Ontario, California: 228 miles – 3 hours and 15 minutes.
Pasadena, California: 255 miles – 3 hours and 39 minutes.
Pomona: 236 miles – 3 hours, 22 minutes.
Riverside: 232 miles – 3 hours and 18 minutes.
Santa Clarita: 261 miles – 3 hours and 55 minutes.
Santa Monica Pier: 280 miles – 4 hours and 12 minutes
Torrance: 279 miles. 4 hours, 9 minutes.
Van Nuys: 274 miles – 4 hours and 2 minutes.
(Related: distance from San Diego to Las Vegas)
All in all, the drive from Los Angeles is a fairly quick and painless drive. Just be sure to make sure your tank is full, watch your speed, and don’t pull over to Primm and lose all your money at the outlet shops. Lose all your money in the casinos, where it belongs.